City of Oakland Energy and Climate Action Plan

City of Oakland Energy and Climate Action Plan

The City of Oakland Energy and Climate Action Plan (ECAP) in Oakland, California was developed to tackle the major topics of climate change and energy consumption as an environmental policy. The purpose of the ECAP is to identify and prioritize actions the city can take to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with Oakland. This plan recommends GHG reduction actions and establishes a framework for coordinating implementation, as well as monitoring and reporting on progress. The ECAP will assist the City of Oakland in continuing its legacy of leadership on energy, climate and sustainability issues (Draft of ECAP, 4).


Development of ECAP

In 2009, the Oakland City Council approved a preliminary GHG abatement target for the year 2020 by 36% of 2005 levels. Research conducted by top climate scientists helped the City in setting its GHG reduction target. The main sources of GHG emissions for Oakland have been identified as transportation and land use, building energy use, and material consumption and waste. The ECAP has outlined a 10 year plan that will ultimately help Oakland reach its goals in GHG emissions and energy consumption. Some of the highlights of this outline include:

  • 20% reduction in vehicle miles traveled annually as residents, visitors and workers meet their daily needs by walking bicycling, and utilizing transit.
  • 32% decrease in electricity consumption through renewable generation, conservation, and energy efficiency.
  • 62 million kWh and 2.7 million therms annually of renewable energy used to meet local needs

The ECAP also proposes a shorter term, more immediate 3-year Priority Implementation Plan, which intends to prioritize a subset of actions for implementation. These actions will aim for near term opportunities and lay the groundwork for long term results. They include actions supported by existing resources such as identifying and adopting priority development areas, calling for the reduction of GHG emissions by the Port of Oakland, and improving the energy performance of new city facilities. Other actions requiring new resources are accelerating the City Fleet Replacement Program, subsidize transit and transportation alternatives for city employees, and engage the largest electricity consumers in energy retrofits.

In order to achieve the goals outlined by the ECAP, there will be a heavy reliance on a collaborative effort from all. The ECAP outlines the roles that recent State policies will need to play in the reduction of GHG emissions as well as requiring the assistance from community leadership. The policy also recommends steps that the City can take to increase community resilience as well as adapting to the impacts of climate change.

The ECAP offers the potential for a multitude of community benefits including the creation of new jobs, energy cost savings, local green economic development, and improving the overall public health due to reduced air pollution. Progress related to the results of ECAP and its implementation will be reported annually. The ECAP’s policy cycle is intended to be every three years, to review the progress, update policies, and identify new areas of concern and attention.

Issues related to energy consumption and climate change need immediate recognition and implementation of changes in order to reduce the pollution rates. Climate change is an issue that ultimately affects the world population, not exclusively Oakland. There is an urgent consensus that highlights the dangers of GHG emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere and the role that human activity is playing in its increase (Draft of ECAP, 5). Climate change is expected to have a significant ecological, health, economic, and quality of life risks to all. Negative consequences include rising water levels, increased vulnerability to floods, decreased potable water supply, increased fire danger, added stress on infrastructure, and increased fuel and food costs. The current dependence on fossil fuels not only create harmful GHG emissions, but also creates other hazards including risky energy security, environmental issues (e.g. Cosco Busan oil spill), and vulnerability to unpredictable energy prices.

Changes in temperature due to climate change could affect our demand for energy. An example is the significant increase in the energy demand for air conditioning as temperatures continue to rise. On the opposite end, the energy demand for space-heating may also increase due to the changes in climate (IPCC, 2007). Changes in energy consumption for climate-sensitive processes, such as pumping water for irrigation in agriculture is also likely to increase. Rising temperatures and increased evaporation may increase the demand for energy used for irrigation, especially in the more dry regions that will require more water.

Energy production

Energy production is another area of concern that will be affected by climate change. Hydropower generation is an energy source that will most likely be disturbed due to its sensitivity to the amount, timing, and geographical patterns of precipitation and temperature. However, due to the difficulty in projecting precipitation, climate change will affect hydropower either positively or negatively. Energy production infrastructure is another consequence of climate change. If a warmer region is exposed to extreme weather conditions such as floods, ice storms, windstorms, tornadoes, and hail, electricity transmission systems may experience more frequent failures, thus requiring manpower & attention and increasing production costs. Power plants could also be negatively affected by climate change; the increase in the temperature of water used to cool the plants may compromise the plant production and create unnecessary problems. Renewable energy sources can also be negatively damaged due to GHG emissions and changes in temperature. Climate change may lead to increased cloudiness and as a result reduce the amount of renewable energy generated by solar means. Wind energy production may also be affected when climate change affects the wind speed that will prevent wind energy sources from working in its optimal state.

There are both physical and social causes of energy and climate change. Some major physical causes of GHGs that cause global warming include carbon monoxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, along with fluorinated gases. Carbon dioxide (CO2) enters the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal), solid waste, trees, and wood products. CO2 is also released to the atmosphere as a result of other chemical reactions, such as the manufacturing of cement. Methane (CH4) is emitted during the production and transportation of coal, oil, and natural gas. It also occurs from livestock and other agricultural practices, and by the decay of organic waste in solid waste landfills (EPA, 2011).

The U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of energy and about a third of its consumption goes to generate electricity. The biggest users of energy are the industrial, commercial, and residential sectors. The amount of energy usage and its demand rises each year and results in over consumption of natural resources like gas, oil, coal, and uranium. Over consumption will surely lead to the depletion of these natural resources and certainly increases the need to utilize and promote the use of alternative sources of energy. This task of identifying new energy sources and changing the current consumption rates will be much easier said than done, requiring cooperation and a combined effort from all levels of society.

Social forces

Social forces play a major role in the causes of energy consumption and climate change. Consumerism has taken a lead position in this area; people need to consume ever more to be satisfied with their needs and wants. In order to maintain the high level of consumption, increasing amounts of energy is demanded to sustain the habit. Although there are clear indications of the consequences of excessive energy consumption, we continue to deny and avoid this serious problem. There is also a high level of hostility to messengers of this problem. Al Gore makes an analogy of today’s consumerism to drug addiction (Gore, 2006). It is such a difficult habit to get rid of, regardless of the severity of the consequences.

In the U.S. alone, there has been a 4-fold increase in per capita consumption of energy from 1960–2000. The U.S. possesses only 5% of the world population but takes up 25% of the world’s energy consumption. There are more cars on the road in the U.S. than the number of licensed drivers. There has also been an increase in the average home size from under 1,000 square feet (93 m2) to 2,500. This significant increase in home size is one of the clearest indicators of the increase in energy demand and consumption needed to maintain this addiction to consumerism.

The field of Science & Technology (S&T) is heavily depended upon to help solve our environmental problems. An example is the high level of GHG emissions from cars; we depended on S&T to create hybrid cars and other low emissions vehicles that we see on the road today. However, the auto industry is far from making a full transition from gas powered engines to alternative methods such as hybrids and all electric. There are simply too much economic consequences in doing so; the petroleum industry is making an unprecedented amount of money from the consumption of gasoline. The automotive industry continues to make gas powered vehicles that are much more appealing in looks and performance than hybrid or electric vehicles. The “drug addiction” that Gore mentions in Earth in the Balance of consumerism is firmly evident in the gasoline and automotive industry. No matter how scarce the supply and expensive the price of gasoline may be, according to Gore, consumers continue to feed their addictions of driving the bigger, faster, stylish, and heavy gas consuming vehicles that are promoted in the auto market today.

Our political system is also another social cause of the problems related to energy and clean air. For politicians, it is a large risk to advocate for environmental issues. As mentioned in Vig & Kraft, Congress has been affected by what analysts have called an "era of partisan warfare" on Capitol Hill. Each party had appealed to its constituency through a political campaign that emphasized an ideological "message politics" (Vig & Kraft, 101). Policy compromise between the parties was never easy, as each did not want to give the impression that the other party had gained victory through the passing of an important policy such as energy use & climate change. Also, the average term of an elected official is between 2–6 years whereas the cycle of an environmental policy can be decades, long after the politician who shed light to the subject has left the political arena. This decreases the incentive for politicians to emphasize environmental issues; there is more potential for harming their political careers rather than advancing it. Politicians are influenced by power players in the business fields, and will be affected by their financial support along with endorsements. Many of these business power players head industries that are heavy polluters. To achieve their financial goals, the effects on the environment from their actions are far too often ignored and overlooked. There are simply no economic gains or incentives in being environmentally conscious. Continued emphasis along with effective implementation of environmental policies must be formulated in order to decrease both the physical and social causes of energy consumption and air pollution.

Oakland’s ECAP has been drafted with an intention to tackle the negative effects of energy over-consumption and promote positive changes in the way the City utilizes energy as well as reduce GHG emissions. Climate change and energy consumption are issues that encompasses a very broad scope, affecting the world as a whole, thus requiring a strong collaborative effort from all involved in order to produce positive outcomes in the future. Physical & political sources makeup the causes of energy consumption & climate change. Emission of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are only a few of the physical causes of global warming and an area that still needs much attention through policy implementation and review. Social causes, including consumerism and the political disadvantage of advocating for environmental issues also contribute to the prevalence of climate change and energy issues. The energy & climate issue is of colossal magnitude and no one government can oversee the whole issue. Local governments, such as the City of Oakland, and similar policy programs like the ECAP needs to be formulated and implemented from the local government levels.

Policy Solution

The ECAP intends to battle GHG and energy consumption issues by targeting the three major sources of pollution that has been identified by the City. They are as follows: 1) Transportation & Land Use 2) Building Energy Use 3) Material Consumption & Waste. By tackling these issues, the City hopes to reduce its GHG emissions by 36% in 2020 compared to 2005 figures (Draft of ECAP, 9). In order to implement this plan, various City departments responsible for each priority action will be providing status updates to the Environmental Services Division. There will also be annual reports presented to the Oakland City Council.

In order for the ECAP to be effective, specific emissions within the three above mentioned sources of pollution must be addressed. In the area of Transportation & Land Use, there must be integrated planning. Any future plans regarding transportation and land use by Oakland must be aware of ECAP’s goals and the projects should reflect those goals. Transit-oriented development will also need to take place; Public transportation should not only be convenient and timely to meet riders’ needs, but should also be environmentally conscious in terms of the emissions resulting from public transit. Bike & pedestrian issues are also important; with an ample amount of bike lanes in the right locations along with allowing pedestrian traffic to feel safe and encouraged to walk, it should help in reaching the goals set by the ECAP. The City Fleet is another major area of ECAP; there are lots of City owned vehicles and decreasing the emissions from the City Fleet will likely decrease the overall emissions produced by the City and also help with ECAP’s desired results.

Building & Energy Use is another source of pollution that the ECAP identifies. New constructions in Oakland should be implemented with the environment in mind, utilizing materials that will decrease energy use and encourage sustainability. Solar panels and energy-saving fluorescent bulbs are just a few materials that may contribute to ECAP and make new constructions green. Besides new construction, retrofitting of existing buildings may be more important. There are many buildings that are outdated and use some much needed upgrades. When existing buildings are retrofitted to be more environmentally responsible, significant decrease in Oakland’s GHG emissions may be a result. Identifying and retrofitting the buildings that need the most work should be one of the top priorities in order for the ECAP to be effective.

The ECAP aims to tackle the pollution source of material consumption & waste by addressing issues such as waste reduction, recycling, composting, reuse & repair, along with landfill waste and local urban agriculture. Waste reduction is a major topic where change in behavior may result in significant decrease in overall waste. Promoting and increasing the awareness of recycling, composting, and local urban agriculture are possible solutions to decreasing waste. The more citizens of Oakland are aware of the benefits of recycling and other ways that their actions may help reduce waste, behavior changes in regards to waste can happen if the City and its residents work in collaboration to achieve ECAP’s goals.


In terms of the ECAP’s history, the proposed policy is still in its very early stages. In December 2008 and January 2009, the City held two first-round public workshops to provide an overview of the planned ECAP development process and to gather initial input on potential ways of reducing GHG emissions and issues to consider in the process of developing the ECAP. In April 2009, the City held two second-round public workshops to gather input on potential Oakland energy and climate goals as well as potential actions the City could consider reducing energy use and GHG emissions (Oakland Public Works Website). On July 7, 2009, Oakland City Council directed staff to develop the draft ECAP using a preliminary planning GHG reduction target equivalent to 36% below 2005 emissions by 2020 along with annual benchmarks for meeting this target. The initial draft of the ECAP was released on Earth Day, April 22, 2010. Public comment on the Draft Energy and Climate Action Plan was accepted through June 11, 2010. The latest revised Draft ECAP was considered at a meeting of the Oakland City Council on March 1, 2011. The ECAP is in its final stages for approval and should enter the implementation cycle in the near future. The policy timeline for the ECAP is as follows:

  • Year 1 – ECAP Adoption
  • Year 2 – Progress Report
  • Year 3 – Progress Report
  • Year 4 – ECAP Update (Completion of 3-year priority action plans supported by existing resources)
  • Year 5 – Progress Report
  • Year 6 – Progress Report
  • Year 7 – ECAP Update
  • Year 8 – Progress Report
  • Year 9 – Progress Report
  • Year 10 – Achievement of 2020 Target


There are many stakeholders affected by the ECAP. From the top, it starts off with Oakland’s City government officials. Their interest in the ECAP is due to the rising importance of environmental issues; if a policy such as the ECAP yields positive results, much praise and recognition will be directed to the government officials who initiated the policy process. They will be able to gain political support from Oakland residents thus ensuring the stability of their political positions and potential for upward mobility on the political ladder. Issues about the environment are no longer in the back seat when it comes to political agendas. The public has made it clear that GHG emissions and reducing energy consumption has become a major issue in politics. Not only in Oakland, but the nation may be at a critical “tipping point” in its capacity to address environmental and energy issues as credible scientific evidence mounts and support for action grows (Vig & Kraft, 101). If the ECAP is perceived as a successful policy that provides positive and realistic results, government officials are likely to reap the benefits from its success.

Many government contractors and various businesses related to construction, transportation, and renewable energy will benefit from the ECAP. In order to make Oakland greener & sustainable, many changes are necessary including building retrofits, construction of new buildings, and proper maintenance of those buildings. All of those tasks and various other projects will require the use of contractors and businesses that specialize in the areas of emphasis. If a big project is contracted to a certain company, they will surely gain not only financially, but possibly be referred for future projects in and out of Oakland. The business field of green energy has seen significant growth and potential for additional growth is still very likely. Depending on how Oakland will choose and hire the contractors to perform various jobs may also bring to Oakland an economic growth through the steady stream of green energy construction and work being performed.

Residents of Oakland are also big stakeholders affected by this program. The goals set forth by the ECAP promote positive changes and proper utilization of existing resources to achieve its GHG emission goals. There are other changes that require additional resources in order to reach policy goals. Everything boils down to the finances; money will be needed and spent in order to make changes happen. The residents of Oakland are the taxpayers and consumers that generate revenue for the City and its multitude of services. With the implementation of the ECAP, the funding needed to carry on with the policy will need to come from different sources. Whether it’s the general City government fund or from tax revenue, something will change and affect Oakland residents. The residents will want to be least affected on their personal finances and have the greatest gain from positive environmental changes that the ECAP intends to produce. As the policy continues to move forth in the process, residents of Oakland and its government officials will need to navigate wisely in order for the ECAP to be successful.

Another stakeholder in this issue will be the energy companies and fuel companies that are currently benefiting from its use by the City of Oakland and its residents. What the ECAP suggests is reducing the amount of electricity and gasoline used by the City Fleet as well as reducing the number of cars on the roadway through improved public transportation and bike/pedestrian lanes within Oakland. When individual homes are improved for energy efficiency, their dependence on natural gas and electricity may also decrease. The energy and fuel companies have a lot at stake because with decreased use and reliance on electricity and fuel, the companies’ revenues will drop.

As changes occur, such as suggested by the ECAP, there will be clear winners and losers in economic terms. Those that have gained from years of increased energy use and GHG emissions may lose out financially as the ECAP continues to strive towards its goals. On the contrary, companies that meet the needs of ECAP and its solutions will gain through the increased demand from the City government as well as residents who seek to make changes.


Evaluations haven’t been conducted on the ECAP. The proposed plan is for a thorough review, update, and change every three years as needed. In that case, the ECAP will be up for the review & update in 2013. In the meantime, annual progress reports will be submitted to the City Council for review. It will be important that the timeline be used wisely, not only as a reporting tool, but to objectively look at the effectiveness of the ECAP and potential for greater improvement.

The potential for ECAP’s success is present. San Francisco passed a Climate Change resolution in 2002 to address the issue of global warming. Since then, positive results have been achieved, including renewable energy programs that promote power production from solar, wind, biomass, ocean wave, and bay tidal current sources which will eliminate an estimated 550,000 tons of CO2. San Francisco’s city fleet consists of more than 700 clean air vehicles, one of the nation’s largest municipal alternative fuel vehicle fleets. Its mass transit fleet currently consists of 57% zero-emissions vehicles, with a goal of a completely zero emission fleet by 2020 (

Oakland’s ECAP is in its beginning stages with positive support from the City Council along with Oakland residents. The real work is only beginning. The policy planning and goal setting stages can be said to have been easier as compared to the implementation of the policy and gathering real, solid data to measure effectiveness. As mentioned in the beginning, in order for the ECAP to be successful, collaboration between the Oakland City government, its residents, along with all the stakeholders involved will be vital. It is a well known fact that global warming due to GHG emissions and other wasteful energy use is a major issue that needs attention. Although it is a global problem, solutions stemming from a smaller scope such as the ECAP from the City level in Oakland, have the potential to be highly effective and be a leading example for other cities to follow in the near future.


  • City of Oakland. Draft Energy and Climate Action Plan. February, 2011
  • City of Oakland. Public Works Agency
  • City of San Francisco.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Energy Production and Use.
  • Gore, Al. (2006). Earth in Balance; Ecology and the Human Spirit. Rodale, INC. New York.
  • Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Working Group II
  • Vig, N. & Kraft, M. (2010). Environmental Policy; New Directions for the Twenty-First Century. CQ Press. Washington, DC.

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